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Commissioning Catechists

During the Mass on 24 November 2002 Archbishop Hart lead a Commissioning of Catechists. On entering St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne for 11.00 am leaflets were presented:

Catholic Education Office

Archdiocese of Melbourne

Renewal of Baptismal

Promises and

Commissioning of

Catechists

The Book of Blessings (De Benedictionibus) has a blessing for catechists during the Mass. There are general intercessions followed by a prayer of blessing said by the celebrant.

But the official ceremony is nothing like that in the leaflet:

All sit. Catechists receiving diplomas are invited to stand.

Archbishop: As catechists you stand out because of your vocation and mission to witness to Christ. Through you own personal integrity and your sharing of faith with young people you allow the Holy Spirit to work through you. Are you prepared to persevere in this mission?

Catechists: We are.

Archbishop: As bishop of the Archdiocese of Melbourne, I commission you to join your fellow workers in bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ to the young people in your community. Do you accept this commission?

Catechists: We do.

Archbishop: I ask you now to pray together:

Catechists: God, in your goodness, you have called us to work within your Church. Grant that we may be generous in our commitment to the People of God. May love of Christ grow in our hearts and in the lives of those we teach. We make this prayer through Christ, our Lord.

All: Amen

Archbishop: Glory be to God whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine; glory be to him from generation to generation in the Church and in Christ Jesus, for ever and ever. (Ephesians 3:20-21)

All: Amen

PRESENTATION OF DIPLOMAS

After Communion, the catechists who are to receive diplomas are called by name to the front of the cathedral. At the conclusion of the presentation of diplomas, we are invited to pray:

Archbishop: Let us now pray in thanksgiving for our catechists:

All: We pray in thanks, O God of goodness, for the generosity of our catechists who have been called to hand on the Catholic faith to young people. May they be a sign of your abiding love and faithfulness. Bless them abundantly in their work.

Archbishop: May God who called you to this work continue to bless you and lead you, through Christ, our Lord.

All: Amen.

What is wrong with this? Firstly it is not following the liturgical book. Whatever good they may do as catechists, by participating in this ceremony they setting a poor example. It is not promoting unity with the universal Church, but saying "We do things our way."

Secondly it gives too prominent a role for the catechists. For the institution of a lector all he says is "Present" and "Amen". For the ordination of a deacon, priest and bishop all that is said is "I do", "I am" and "I am, with the help of God" in response to the various examinations. But this ceremony has the catechists making a prayer "through Christ, our Lord".

Diplomas should not be presented during Mass. That they should be given a diploma is good. But it highlights the inconsistency of the Archdiocese of Melbourne refusing to give a certificate to Instituted Lectors. According to Canon 156 "The provision of any office is to be made in writing." But Most Reverend Denis Hart wrote to me on 20 March 2001:

"... The invariable practice of this Diocese since the Council has been only to give the Ministry of Lector and Acolyte to those who are in transition to later ordination to diaconate and priesthood, and only to give certificates for Ordinations. ..."

In 1985 the Australian Episcopal Liturgical Commission approved a hymn book: "Catholic Worship Book" for which Denis Hart gave the Nihil Obstat. After the ceremonies for the institution of lectors and acolytes it has at 130:

"Other Ministries

When the local Church wishes to give recognition to other ministries, such as that of catechist, musician, those who care for the sick, extraordinary ministers of the eucharist, or those who help others prepare for the sacraments, a similar celebration may take place during the eucharist or a service of the word."

I have no problem with a celebration which is given in an approved liturgical book. Unfortunately the impression is given that its legitimate to use the ceremonies for the institution of readers and acolytes as a model for creating ceremonies for other lay ministries.

By J.R. Lilburne, 25 November 2002. Updated 26 November 2002. I give what I have written on this page to the public domain.